'It’s difficult to make Malayalis laugh': Archana Kavi on her web series ‘Meenaviyal’
'It’s difficult to make Malayalis laugh': Archana Kavi on her web series ‘Meenaviyal’

'It’s difficult to make Malayalis laugh': Archana Kavi on her web series ‘Meenaviyal’

Archana Kavi, who began acting in films 10 years ago, has written a web series about a brother and sister, which has been received well online.

To the doorstep of an ancient looking house, Archana Kavi walked, wearing a mundu and blouse. She was playing the servant girl, who was going to fall in love with the young master of the house, in that remake of the 1979 Malayalam classic, Neelathamara.  Ten years later, Archana is in a Kochi apartment, wearing the clothes she might wear in her Delhi home, looking confused about a brother who has suddenly barged into her peaceful life. She is playing the elder sibling in a brother-sister comedy-drama, that she wrote as a web series.

“I know this is something everybody says but we really didn’t expect it to become so popular,” Archana says on a call from Delhi, a week after the series – Meenaviyal – went online. All six episodes – 6 to 10 minutes long -- have been watched a few hundred thousand times by viewers, with comments pouring in on the brother-sister relationship and the lavish use of English.

It means so much to her because it is, she stresses, difficult to make Malayalis laugh. “The standards have been set so high (by our seniors). If it didn’t work, konnu kayil tharum (they would not spare you),” she says, the words coming slow-paced like Amrita, the 30-year-old single psychologist she plays in the series.

The brother in Meenaviyal – Arun – is played by Arun Kurian, who has worked in movies like Aanandam and most recently in Thamasha.   

Archana and her brother Ashish as kids

“I have an elder brother, Ashish, who used to be a little bossy like Amrita. But we were more responsible than these guys (brother-sister in the series),” Archana says. Amrita also has a roommate, Lachu, played by Vaishnavi Venugopal, who played the character Mottachi in the recently-released June.

Archana has earlier written the mini-series Toofan Mail, about the relationship between a father and a daughter played by her and her journalist father, Jose Kavi. “Writing has always been a passion for me. I don’t read much. But I like talking to people, hearing their stories. What I write is a slice of life.”

Archana and Jose in Toofan Mail

But when she acts, she detaches herself from the script she wrote, Archana says. “I let the director take over.” Meenaviyal is directed by Abhishek Nair, who has been an associate of creative director Arun Dominic. 

Archana can’t decide which she enjoys more – writing or acting. “There is a certain power you have as a writer, creating something from nothing. Being an actor is also a process. It is like choosing between money and power.” But then it makes her write from the point of view of an actor.

There is a scene in the series when Arun wakes up Amrita with a candle in a cupcake, wishing her a happy birthday at midnight. It is also the scene where she asks him about his supplementary exam in college that he hid from her. Archana mentions this scene as one of her favourites. “I like that bonding that came out in the series.” It is mostly, however, the arguments and tiffs between the siblings that you see, the invasion of privacy - from hijacking each other’s phones, asking too many details of a girlfriend or a boyfriend and so on.

Women writing humour for a Malayalam film - short or long format - is not something you see every day. Archana says she hadn’t really thought about it. “I am someone who has a lighthearted take on things, generally,” she says. And that would come in her writing, too.

She has not been active in mainstream cinema in recent years. She would be if a really interesting character comes her way. “The power lies with the creator,” she says, and some day, she’d be that creator, writing for a feature film, perhaps even direct one. But not right now, it is an evolving process – creating – and she has to reach a certain level before venturing into the next, Archana says.

Watch the trailer of Meenaviyal:

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